USDA Signs Off on Plan to Provide Retroactive Benefits to Georgians Wrongly Deprived of Food Stamps

In a large-scale win for low-income Georgia families, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) signed off on an agreement brokered by NCLEJ that will provide retroactive food stamps to tens of thousands of families wrongly deprived of benefits.

The case, Melanie K. v. Horton, challenged a system-wide failure by the Georgia agency to process food stamp applications and renewals. As a consequence, tens of thousands of families lost the ability to access critical assistance and all too many went hungry.

On August 5, 2015, Judge William S. Duffey, Jr., of the Northern District of Georgia approved the class action settlement. Under the key provisions of the settlement, the state agency must process applications and renewals for food stamps within the time required by law; provide monthly reports to ensure compliance with the Food Stamp Act; establish an informal review process; and improve its timely processing of food stamp applications until it achieves 96% on-time processing of applications in six out of seven quarters.

An additional key feature of the settlement provided that class members whose applications were wrongfully denied or not renewed, and who were subsequently approved for food stamp benefits, would receive retroactive benefits. The USDA acquiesced to the plan for the payment of retroactive benefits on November 19, 2015.

NCLEJ’s lawyers include Gina Mannix, Tedde Tasheff, Dodyk Fellow Leah Lotto, Katie Deabler, and Marc Cohan. Local counsel David Webster and Mark Grantham and Arthur Brannon from DLA Piper’s Atlanta office joined NCLEJ on this case.

Read the August settlement here.